Manual Monotheism and tolerance : recovering a religion of reason

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[Best] Monotheism and Tolerance: Recovering a Religion of Reason (Indiana Series in the Philosophy

Such a claim is not only false, but it undermines my own argument. It is the wager of this book that the strategy laid out by the religion of reason trajectory of thinkers should be accessible to, or open to appropriation by, the other Abrahamic monotheisms. However, before we get to philosophical projects of Mendelssohn, Kant, and Cohen, it is important to realize that whether violent or not, there is a very real intolerance in the discursive structure shared by the Abrahamic monotheisms.

Thus, we need to return to the model laid out by Jaffee and in particular its final moment, the eschaton. Here, the intolerant foundations of the monotheistic worldview can be seen with utmost clarity. The struggle between the elected human community and all other human communities ends, and the gap between human beings and God is healed. However, this reconciliation between God and humanity means one of two things, neither of which is savory from a tolerant or pluralist perspective. Either the Other is incorporated into the elected community, throwing off her old, corrupt and idolatrous ways, converting to the true way of life, and serving the universal God of creation properly, or the Other is simply annihilated physically and spiritually.

Whereas Hick attempts to provide a metaphysical account of religious pluralism, Habermas attempts to domesticate the violent and intolerant tendencies of monotheistic religions through recourse to his post-metaphysical account of communicative rationality and the epistemic processes of modernity. Neither the philosophical-theological approach of Hick nor the secular, discourse-oriented approach of Habermas can envision a solution to the problem of monotheistic intolerance without repudiating the discursive structure of the elective monotheisms.

Simply put, the solutions proffered by Hick and Habermas require nothing less than that monotheistic religions be stripped of their discursive structure.


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  5. Despite the fact that Hick and Habermas fail to present solutions that speak to the Abrahamic monotheisms qua elective monotheisms, it is nevertheless extremely useful to explore their approaches. Given that both Hick and Habermas demand equal regard for the beliefs and practices of the Other, they categorically reject any sort of unilateral vision that marginalizes the Other and her otherness.

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    In contrast, on a foundational level the monotheistic religions are inherently bound up with an ambiguity often verging on agonism toward the Other herself, and which maintains a hostility whether implicit or explicit toward the otherness of the Other. As a result of this shared stress on symmetrical relations between the self and the Other, neither Hick nor Habermas is able to provide a framework in which the moments of the discursive structure of the elective monotheism can be sustained. This disconnect with the monotheistic worldview is illustrative of a certain foundational incommensurability between the modern principles of tolerance and pluralism and the discursive structure of the elective monotheisms.

    Hick, who writes as a theologian within the Christian tradition as well as a philosopher of religion, thematizes the epistemic issues surrounding religious pluralism, providing a framework in which all religions are seen as possessing at least potentially equal value. Hick is clearly concerned with the agonistic tendency of the elective monotheistic religions, and indeed, his theology vigorously attempts to counteract the tendency of monotheistic religions to regard the beliefs, actions, and practices of the Other as inferior to their own.

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    Without sacrificing the monotheistic idea that God deserves primary recognition,51 Hick struggles to show how the otherness of the Other is also a form of recognition of God, and indeed an equally valid one. However, there are two ways Hick can pursue this agenda. As a Christian theologian he can work within the discursive structure of the elective monotheisms, or he can make a case that Christianity no longer needs this framework. Hick chooses the latter. My task here is not to impugn this choice on philosophical grounds but merely to show the implications of such a choice.

    That is, Hick distinguishes between the Eternal One as it exists in-itself and as it exists forus. The divine manifests itself in religious experience, which has a transformative effect on human beings, regardless of the religio-cultural tradition through which this contact is mediated. Hick is attempting to undercut monotheistic intolerance at its root by removing the agonistic elements from the divinely ordained human telos.

    To briefly review, Halbertal and Margalit argue that all religions attempt to render the undefined purpose of the human fixed and determinate through prescribed laws, beliefs, mores, and codes.

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    As a result, monotheistic religions tend to view the claims of other religions as not merely error, but as that which leads one away from God, i. As Keith Ward points out, Hick attempts to steer the reader away from such concerns about particularity through talk about religion and transcendence in only the vaguest and most abstract terms. By rendering revelation universal, election and the world-historic mission become not only unnecessary but wrongheaded, and the notion of the eschaton becomes mere mythology.

    We can recommend the way of Christian faith without having to discommend other ways of faith. Hick is able to reconcile Christianity with pluralism only by entirely shedding the discursive structure of the elective monotheisms, a move which he clearly does not view as problematic. Nevertheless, it should hardly be any surprise that Hick has raised the ire of many conservative Christian theologians, including Pope Benedict XVI, who are not as willing to part with the foundations and structure of the monotheistic worldview.

    Habermas brings this set of concerns to the problem of monotheistic intolerance, particularly in constitutional democracies, in order to work out the necessary conditions for religious tolerance and pluralism. However, this process of the teleological development of communicative rationality and its hold on human beings and society is a historical-developmental one. This process develops toward forms of society premised around achieving a consensus freely reached by all the members of society who participate equally in this process of mutual understanding. On the one hand, Habermas critiques the fundamental assumptions of pluralism for precluding the possibility of reaching any sort of consensus on an a priori basis, positing as it does an implicit metaphysical fissure between the self and Other.

    In such instances, where discussion and deliberation are ruled out, tolerance and pluralism are essential. Thus matters of ultimate concern, i. For this reason, Habermas has been widely critiqued as being insensitive to religious concerns. It can provide consolation in the face of the existential crises that regularly beset human beings and for which philosophy, now deprived of any metaphysical claims, can no longer serve as a surrogate. Reflexivity is the capacity to investigate validity claims without the coercion or constraints of dogmatism.

    And finally, decentration is a process of becoming less chauvinistic or selfcentered in focus, by moving toward more universalistic and inclusivistic points of view. The public, universal claims of religion are predicated upon theology, which is a metaphysical discourse that Habermas claims can no longer remain valid in this post-metaphysical era. As a result, religion is removed from the public sphere and limited to the private realm, given that it is rationally indefeasible in this post-metaphysical age.

    Obviously the accuracy of its descriptive level must now be seen as problematic.

    Both thinkers require that Abrahamic-monotheistic religions denude themselves of their discursive structure. Yet without this structure, they are no longer Abrahamic monotheisms.

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    Thus, their solution to monotheistic intolerance—to the agonism toward the Other in the heart of the monotheistic worldview—is to treat as valid religions that are monotheistic in name only, but whose content is something else. According to Habermas, fundamentalist movements arise in modernity, alongside modern forms of faith. Habermas simply accepts these characteristically modern principles as valid. However, if examined, the origin of these principles reveal a complex and problematic relationship with monotheism that renders their rejection by fundamentalists more complex.

    The modern principle of tolerance emerges slowly in Western Europe out of the context of a series of brutal religious wars and persecutions following the Reformation. In book 4, chapter 8 of On the Social Contract,88 Rousseau elucidates his account of religious tolerance. Rousseau, long before Assmann, recognizes the political implications of the monotheistic worldview.

    The two intolerances are inseparable. It is impossible to live in peace with people one believes to be damned; to love them would be to hate God who punishes them; one must absolutely bring them back [to the fold] or torment them. Rousseau drains the monotheistic worldview of all antagonistic energy with the following axiom. All institutions which put man in contradiction with himself are worthless.

    Since theology has been subordinated to politics, religious truth is no longer sufficient grounds for an agonistic relationship with the Other. In such an environment, the discursive structure of Abrahamic monotheisms has not been refuted on rational grounds but quite literally rendered illegal. That is, Locke inserts two profound changes into the foundational structure of elective monotheism, thus altering its basic logic. Locke introduces a split between the civil and religious spheres, and enacts a separation between the individual and the collective.